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War Machine Grinds Others Besides Pvt. Lynch

Shauna Rhone

It was painful watching Jessica Lynch testify last week.

Lynch sat with other betrayed Americans who had been thrust into the war machine and ground into legends not of their own making. The family of the late Pat Tillman, along with Lynch, sat in front of cameras and prodding lawmakers who allowed them to publicly vent their confusion and frustration at being characters in this tragic opera of conspiracy and carnage.

Mysteriously missing from the table of testimony was a voice I remember hearing only briefly in the past, but which popped up recently in a news item generally overlooked by my peers.

Shoshana Johnson, who was captured along with Jessica Lynch and four other soldiers, was another unlikely hero who was pushed through the war machine grinder and came out with a different public persona.

Johnson, who was shot in both her legs, appeared in a grainy video soon after her group's capture in 2003. She was not smoking cigarettes or opening presents as the British captives did earlier this year. She looked fearful and alone while she answered questions she could barely understand. The first African-American female captive in this war, and a little older than my own daughter, she made my heart ache for her and her family as they crawled through the ordeal.

After she returned home, Johnson was given her medals and sent home while Lynch made the rounds, preceded by a captivity legend she later would announce as false.

Her attempt to report what really happened made me grieve for her distorted experience. I'm glad she was able to go public with the truth and further amplify the lies we all were told.

In the middle of the Lynch legend was the story of Shoshana Johnson: a cook who got caught up in a journey that took a disastrous turn. By the time she righted herself back on American soil, Johnson learned her wounds were so severe and debilitating that she only qualified for a 30 percent disability. Forced to prove the permanent damage to her body, Johnson was able to appeal and receive a higher percentage with which to restart her life.

She never had a "movie of the week" about her ordeal. She never had a bestselling book like Lynch did. Although she had a book deal, her publisher recently canceled the contract and demanded the advance be returned.

In a recent interview, Johnson said she had turned in the manuscript but balked at the "suggestion" that she make it more religion based. Johnson replied that her Catholic upbringing did not allow for evangelizing. Suddenly, the publisher was no longer interested.

Kind of like the government when it decided to embellish Lynch's rescue and ignore Johnson and the four other GIs who were also being held. The four men remain on active duty and Johnson reports she still hears from them occasionally.

The only reason I bring up the names of Shoshana Johnson, Patrick Miller, Edgar Hernandez, James Riley and Joseph Hudson is that they were as manipulated by the government's silence on their ordeal as Jessica Lynch was, for the sake of building up the drumbeat of war.

I pray for them as I pray for all the soldiers and their families and the people of Iraq as we try to figure out a way to make the drumbeat stop so the song of peace can begin.

Shauna Rhone is the Web editor for The Capital Times. E-mail:

Copyright 2007 The Capital Times

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